Exuberance cover


Bob Hicok

Copyright © 2012 Bob Hicok. All rights reserved.

A family matter

Of course, when my mother asked
that I give my wife a kiss for her, I did so,
telling my wife, I am my mother, kissing you.
My wife's mother, it turns out, had asked the same,
so of course she told me, I am my mother,
kissing you back.
When we informed our mothers later
that they had kissed as lesbians
through heterosexual proxy
beside our cat's sense that something
like a mouse or with the potential
to be a mouse would eventually move
through the spot she was staring at,
where nothing was or had ever been, as far
as the record shows, my mother asked, was tongue
My wife and I consulted the log
but there was no entry. We shrugged
at our mothers and went about our lives,
though now with an awareness
there are gaps we'll never fill
that may or may not have tongues in them,
though given a vote, I say yes, tongues, red
like our mouths are where flames go
to be alone.

The Hippocratic Oath I'm asking a friend's ultrasound to take

First be a zygote.
First poop something yellow.
First disregard the sensitivity
of your mother's nipples.
First be dropped by your brother.
First fall down the stairs.
First be afraid of thunder.
First eat a crayon.
First cup your hands together
and hold a bowl of sunlight.
First call your father a spoon.
First grow a rose in your brain.
First show your mother
your first erection.
First break a window or a tree.
First pet a firefly to death.
Then do no harm.
Then do harm.
Then romanticize the time
you did no harm
and do no harm again.

Spring sprang sprung

The dandelions are beautifully misplaced
boutonnieres in the rain, each
a possible sunrise for the lapel
I'd wear tuxedoed to the dance
with Persephone's cheek against my chest
the whole time. Even when she pees.
Even when she's puking peppermint
schnapps out the window of the limousine.
Excuse my metaphorical excess
but spring's the child I'll never have,
she's a teenager already and clearly
into sex though we never had the talk,
o you horny wily willows, o you exploding
flowering whatever pink thing you are
over there, I think tulip trees
have no tulips as I know them, fortunately
language has little say on the overflow
I'm caught in the undertow of.
I was just hanging out counting hairs
on my knuckles when chlorophyll
went apeshit a month back and the rain
just stopped, the world smells sexy
as a woman stepping from a shower
and asking for the towel I know better
than to give her. We're fresh out of dry,
dear heart, you just stand there
in your sheen and shine, is my come-on
to treeline and bee hive, the strictly
speaking all I'm in thrall of,
can't you tell from this awkward
patois that I'm no hump-gabber, no "o baby"
kind of guy. And here's the thing,
sweety, sock-hop, foxtrot, what I adore's
the do-over of the deal, the one-offness
of this, the nth incarnation of life
doing what life just does, seek
and destroy, sure, that yin-yang stuff's
tres true, but right now, at my age, seek's
the rage with me, the wet and bright
and lust and luster of this green
reaching out and reaching through.

The human body is seventy percent Sargasso Sea

(a reduction)

Because we don't think
of drinking water
as cannibalism or swimming
as incest, I gather
my age spots into a semaphore
and signal rain
to come love my skin
again, everything
I do is an affair
with water, go to Paris,
the Musée D'Orsay,
where the art
is boring but trains
once came and went,
see that, how fluid
dynamics govern travel
and poetry, or the mind
cutting the course
of its flow with liquid
Because think of water
as swimming, as gather,
my semaphore and rain
to skin again, everything
I affair with Paris,
the D'Orsay, where art
is trains once went, see,
fluid dynamics
travel, and mind
cutting course of liquid
Because water
as gather,
my rain
to everything
I Paris,
the art is see,
fluid dynamics
travel mind,
cutting liquid

March here is more of a run

The Earth will soon be "sexually active" again. I forgot
where I buried a pig with a watch in its throat. The river
is fat and stalked by a kitty. A man in the distance
is building a house from the house the man beside him
is taking apart. If I had a vagina, I'd wonder how it is
and is not a glove compartment, if I had an elephant,
I'd bring her around for you to touch her so much gentleness.
The truth is I'll tie daffodils to my penis one morning
and bring spring to my wife in bed. A neighbor has a skull
he claims was his father's, I have a life I pretend is mine.
Go victim-hood, go elegance, go sunlight, most of which
never touches the Earth but zooms toward other stars
burning their missives. One day you look up and there are gnats
and flies, trees have decided they're dresses, a dog
is humping your leg and you feel flattered by the attention
though not the methodology, if you can forgive me
for dragging you into this poem. More personally,
I love it when the fields switch on, when green decides
it has more fashion sense than all of Paris or Milan,
the days get longer and stay up past their bedtime,
and we're thrown to the wolves of words
like profusion and cornucopia. Life is a woman
taking her hair down and breathing above you
as hard and loud as driving nails into a header
that will hold the sky to its promises
or something, life is something to bite the ear off of
and whisper into the ear whatever tornado
your mind has a mind to tell

Places that have become me

Poor starling in the B concourse of Logan Airport. You do not
have a laptop. You do not have a cell phone. You do not
have the sky. You have an Au Bon Pain. You have a seafood restaurant
that sells live lobsters to travelers. What a fancy lobster
that would be, who flies first class to Dallas. While you peck
at the carpet as if it's grass, I want to sneak up on you
so softly you believe I've always been there, that I am a tree
and chaperon you as a tree to flight 1872 bound for Charlotte,
so you can fly down the B-10 causeway and show the Airbus
how grace is done. Speaking of things out of place, half
an hour away, if you ignore the speed limit, there's a boat
hanging from the ceiling of the chapel at Babson College.
In this case, I don't want to set the boat free, it's an emotion
in the half glass, half wood, fully beautiful room
people go to speak to God in a circle of chairs, a boat
with recessed lighting, a boat with only the waters
of raised voices to sail upon, a boat that would look good
with a starling at its tiller. I said emotion but it's more
of a sense that heaven has room for our stuff, our boats
and windows, our eyes and the snow I wish had fallen
outside the chapel, in which the immediate sky
is a sky of rescue, a sky of gather two of every creature
that walks or gets lost in Logan Airport and bear them
to a time when trouble is over, this is the Bible
as it is written by this poem. Every large airport
I've been to has had birds in it, only one chapel
I've been to has had a boat in it, this means
our airports are more frequently imaginative
than our worship, and more accidentally cruel. I'm home
now, where starlings and boats are where they belong, I'm the one
out of place if you ask the river, the cows, the coyotes
who come at night, gather their voices into a hoop
and lament, it seems to me, nothing.

More cheerleading wearing fortunately not a skirt

It's been a thing to say, we're born alone we die alone,
rather than wild berries are pending of some sort.
This sentence is both descriptive and prescriptive,
in that one thing is true and the other thing
I want to be true, and since this is me talking
I get my way. This hegemony is why I write poetry,
for if I want the possibility of pie to enter
how we speak of life, I do that with the wild berries
baked inside of some sort and look outside at the sun
being the brightest student in the class and tell the poem
to repeat my heart to the world. The world listens
though not necessarily to the wild berry pie dream
of my heart, I accept this and Republicans and people
shooting strangers as best I can, attitudes
are as expansive as some pants are
that will go up and down a few sizes
before they give up, before they throw in the towel
of their seams and zippers, I am not pants
not yet doing that. I want the wild berries
of some sort in pie or a basket on a table
as wide as the world listening to what I don't know
the world is listening to, though since it's ears
are a little bit my ears, I know a bit
of what the world is listening to, drink locally
fall down globally is a thing I've heard people say
in this poem, also flesh is a dress
elation wears could be words on a page
you're reading, if you seem to have heard that
as recently as just now.


Foul mood. Then I think of how New York smells versus how Amsterdam smells.
I'm still in a foul mood but have at least the distraction of realizing I can't characterize
the smell of New York. Amsterdam is easy: pot. Every few bright doors: pot. Pot
and pancakes and water in the grachts and half-grachts. Now I'm saying gracht
as I walk in a foul mood while thinking New York smells of piss, piss and spit, piss and spit
and road grime, road grime and piss and stilettos and taxi cabs and honking. And Paris
is a cat that licks itself clean every morning. And London smells gray. And Venice
smells of sinking. And my wife smells like sleep. I am no longer in a foul mood. I am walking
toward the hour of resurrection. I am walking with the intentions of a gymnast to handspring
and bound. I sniff under my right arm and call it New York, New Amsterdam. I am where
I am going, I am where I have been. But no man is an island, no woman an isthmus, no parable
a peninsula, as far as the crow flies. Every time I throw you a rope, I forget to hang on.
You throw it back, the air between us predominately rope-shaped. All this gallivanting:
if there's no place to stand there's no place to sit. If there's no place to sit,
I should set my chairs free to roam as buffalo used to, my jealous table will follow, my rooms
will empty into the great beyond as I will, but what about the great here? Where is that?
And don't tell me the great here isn't here. I am here and can smell a lie, can smell dew
better on my knees. It looks like I'm praying but I'm not. I'm collecting wet knees.
I'm biting the Earth. To cherish. To taste the source. To get even.


Having assumed it's none of my business
that our cats sniff each other's ass
while I prepare their breakfast, I turn now
to the window and resume the relationship
I've had with two horses who may be
two different horses since I fell in love
with shapes moving horse-like
in the distance eight years ago, I watched
one dusk in Michigan a horse mount
and conspire with another to make
yet a third, the mounted horse
completely not stopping eating
while the other quickly did his thing,
which resembled my thing in how it held on to
and cherished blood, as if for a while
it were a heart, I didn't expect that thought
but there it is, the dick-heart, and weirdly,
when I put their food down, they usually
go look at birds, as if to remind themselves
what the real life is
and that it isn't this one, though for me,
this has been completely authentic
from day one, such that if you gathered
all of my desires in a bag, I would marvel
at the size and hunger of the bag
and want that too, and we could talk
well into the night about how to slip the bag
holding everything into the bag
holding everything without dropping a thing,
like where else could you fit the sky
but the sky?

The benefits of love

She smells like bread or flowers, I make love
to bakeries and gardens, she sleeps
with the industrial zealotry of Teamsters
moving refrigerators to Cleveland, the sun comes up
and we brush our teeth to appear bright as a star,
at least one of our parents is always sick
or having something imaged or measured in their body,
we took in a dog who barked at us making cheese sandwiches,
we're tunneling to Spain on weekends,
hoping to sneak up on bull fights and set every
toro free, it's her turn to do the dishes
it's my turn to have a baby, we play Boggle in French
and feel things in pig Latin, she had Norman Mailer's face
tattooed around her asshole so she can shit
through his mouth, because of her I feel
I've dated hang-gliding and base-jumping and all forms
of suicidal elation wearing the safety harness
of her breath, so far I've only rejected
her yeast infections, she can't stand watching me
operate on giraffes, it may be the hormones
it may be the liquor, or she reminds me
of my mother's breasts, which remind me
of my mother's nipples, but I love
that I've never claimed to love everything about her,
her farts are boring, her philanthropy's predictable,
she's not translucent, hypoallergenic, or reversible,
how does it go: you give lint on the first anniversary,
a colonoscopy for the tenth, the twenty third
must be a Zamboni or Jupiter, must be some day
we're not actually sure of, that's the problem
when you're not married to your wife, there's no specific date
to celebrate and girlfriend implies pimples
and mate has too much homo neanderthalensis to it,
and when I wrote "love of my life" across the boxed options
at the dentist, the receptionist told the hygienist,
who was so so gentle in the way she tortured my teeth

My Francis Bacon essay

Francis Bacon's people have bacon faces. I want to heat them
on the stove and eat their misery. If you've never seen one
of his paintings, imagine a man's face being skinned
as the plane he's on is going down into the Atlantic, the lapdogs
in his eyes terrified but searching anyway for someone's leg
to hump. This is not the extent of my view of human nature,
for I feel Solzhenitsyn would have done well on stilts.
Bacon is memorable as a fist where very few of us want one,
yet these are images that wear their violence as casually
as birds wear flying. Sometimes I think Bacon is how the night
looks at us, how God would appear or the Big Bang
across from me in a bar, sipping some fruity yummy umbrella drink
while trying to decide if it's worth the effort
to tear me apart. Other times I'm sure God or The Big Bang
drink scotch and Drano, and that people, if I look closely enough,
appear oddly soft, bloody but strangely cuddly
in Bacon's work, fuzzy really in how frenzied
and multiple he painted their nervous edges
for museums to place the visual equivalent of live
and loose wires on their walls. I mentioned a lapdog earlier,
when if you've ever wondered what the child of a man
and Doberman would look like turned inside out, consult Bacon.
If you've never wondered this, we'll have little to talk about,
so I guess this is goodbye.

A gift

At the end of the concert, the famous rock harpist
wants to lift his harp over his head and smash it
but harps are heavy as empty beds. To bring roadies out
to smash his harp would be inauthentic rage. He settles
on burning his harp, the audience loves it and demands
an encore. He tells them he only has ashes to play
and they chant, PLAY THE ASHES. He plays the ashes
more imaginatively than he ever played the harp.
Finished, he tells the audience he has nothing to smash
or burn except the ashes. No one knows what to do now,
if the concert is over if nothing is smashed or burned,
whether to leave or make love and raise the children
born of these confused unions in the aisles. They make love
and raise the children to expect music to come and go
without the burning or smashing of what brought the music,
forgetting the famous rock harpist along the way. He's old
and crossing a park when he sees a young woman
looking up at a statue with wings, both the statue
and the woman have wings, you have wings, he says
to the young woman, so do you, she says to the old man,
the sun going down, the gyro guy packing up his cart
and pushing away the scent of lamb that has given the day
a significant portion of its structure and belief.

Bob Hicok

Bob Hicok's seventh collection, Elegy Owed, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon in 2013. His previous collection was Words for Empty and Words for Full (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010). This Clumsy Living (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007), was awarded the 2008 Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress and offered in a German translation by Luxbooks in 2012. His other books are Insomnia Diary (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004), Animal Soul (Invisible Cities Press, 2001),a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Plus Shipping (BOA, 1998), and The Legend of Light (University of Wisconsin, 1995), which received the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry and was named a 1997 ALA Booklist Notable Book of the Year. A recipient of five Pushcart Prizes, a Guggenheim and two NEA Fellowships, his poetry has been selected for inclusion in eight volumes of Best American Poetry, including the upcoming Best of the Best American Poetry, edited by Robert Pinsky.